Nano and Micro Systems
Microsensors for Space-Based and Terrestrial Harsh Environments
JPL is developing microsensors to monitor state variables, composition, and fluid flow that can provide valuable information regarding the ambient conditions of various harsh/extreme environments. On the surface of Venus, in the oil and gas production environment, and inside engines, such sensors help us to understand the operating environments, provide valuable scientific data, improve industrial processes, and in certain cases, avoid catastrophic damage. Due to the high temperature and extreme corrosiveness of these environments, the sensors require thermally tolerant, chemically resistant materials, and designs that can function reliably over a wide range of conditions.
While just the sensors themselves are moderately challenging, the process of making them into packaged, integrated sensor systems with reliability, integration capability, and robustness to perform with high sensitivity over prolonged mission or application periods is extremely challenging on multiple levels. One type of MDL-fabricated ceramic flow sensor that can operate above 300 °C is pictured above.